Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Visit to the Canopy Camp Darien

Darien Entrance

In January, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Darien National Park and Cerro Pirre in far eastern Panama, near the Colombian border.  It is a magical place, where Harpy Eagles, Great Green Macaws, Great Curassows, critically endangered Colombian Spider Monkeys and several Panamanian endemic species can live in pristine lowland, foothill and highland forests. With its long winding rivers and small indigenous communities sprinkled throughout the province, it is reminiscent of the Amazon.  It is truly a special place.  

Canopy Camp Darien
Safari-style Tent at the Canopy Camp Darien
This past week, I returned again to the Darien again with Carlos Bethancourt and Cesar Pinzon, to visit the Canopy Tower Family's new birding eco lodge, the Canopy Camp Darien.  The camp is situated along the border of a hydrological reserve, well into the Darien province beyond the town of Meteti.  The camp is currently in its construction phase, as safari-style tents are being put in place on platforms, each with their own private bathroom that offers a stunning view of the surrounding forest from the shower!  You can see more pictures of the construction of the Canopy Camp Darien on the Canopy Tower's Flickr page.    

Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
The main purpose of the trip was to visit the Canopy Camp, as well as the nearby birding areas along the Pan-American highway to its very end in the town of Yaviza.  Of course we took advantage and did as much birding as we could!  The camp is surrounded by lowland tropical forests, with towering Cuipo trees in close range.  The Cuipos are in seed at this time of the year, with bright orange and magenta-colored winged seeds.  Around the camp, we frequently heard (and saw) Rufous-tailed Jacamars and White-headed Wrens as well as a Gray-cheeked Nunlet, nesting Black-capped Tody-Flycatcher, and a pair of Olivaceous Piculets.  Golden-collared Manakins and Golden-headed Manakins lek in the forest a mere 150 metres from camp, right along a trail.  Sapphire-throated Hummingbirds and Pale-bellied Hermits visit the Heliconia plants in the gardens to feed.  The bird list for the Canopy Camp is growing and growing, and on this visit we had great views of Royal Flycatcher.  At the adjacent birding sites, highlights included a gorgeous pair of Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, a Red-rumped Woodpecker, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove and many, many more.  We also saw over 1000 migrating Mississippi Kites passing overhead right at the camp!   

Cuipos towering over the forest canopy
Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug and its prey, a honeybee

On our last day, we stopped at Restaurant Arco Iris along the Pan-American Highway in the Darien for lunch - the best Corvina Frita in Panama!  Yum!
Corvina Frita (Fried Seabass)
It was a short yet productive trip to the Darien, I am already looking forward to going back!

~ Jenn 

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